OSWIECIM, Poland (AP) — In a defiant speech coming from the place symbolizing the suffering of Jews during World War II, Israel's prime minister warned on Thursday that the Jewish state will do everything to prevent another Holocaust and to defend itself against any threat.
Benjamin Netanyahu spoke during the inauguration of a new pavilion at the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz that is to educate visitors about the Holocaust and Nazi's quest to exterminate Jews. Auschwitz with adjacent Birkenau was the most notorious of a system of death camps that Nazi Germany built and operated in occupied Poland.
"From here, the place that attest to the desire to destroy us, I, the prime minister of Israel, the state of the Jewish people, say to all the nations of the world: The state of Israel will do whatever is necessary to prevent another Holocaust," Netanyahu said, as he stood in front of the red-brick former prisoner block that houses the new exhibition.
"We must not be complacent in the face of threats of annihilation. We must not bury our heads in the sand or allow others to do the work for us," he said, not naming the threat but apparently meaning Iran and its nuclear program.
Before the speech, he visited Block 27, which is now dedicated to presenting Auschwitz in the larger context of the World War II genocide. More than 1.1 million of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust died in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.
Among some 4.2 million names of Holocaust victims listed, page after page, on a 14-meter (yard) -long list, Netanyahu found the name of Yehudit Hun, the twin sister of his late father-in-law, killed in Bilgoraj, southeastern Poland.
"If there are Holocaust deniers, have them come to Block 27 and go over one name at a time," Netanyahu said in clear reference to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who questions the extent of the Holocaust.
The exhibition was curated by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. It aims to provide the backdrop of the Holocaust, the Nazi Germany's ideology for murder, and the physical and spiritual struggle of its victims. It also includes survivor testimonies and drawings by some of the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust.
The Germans carried out the Holocaust to a large extent in occupied Poland, because it had Europe's largest Jewish population and it was at the heart of a railway network that allowed the Nazis to easily transport Jews there from elsewhere in Europe. Many Israeli leaders are children of Holocaust survivors, and Israel has the world's largest population of survivors.
In recent years, Poland has become one of the friendliest states to Israel.